When thinking about the coronavirus outbreak, it is easy to think of it on a grand scale. Reports of mass layoffs, hundreds of new cases, and countless deaths plague all avenues of the media. It is important to see individuals rather than faceless numbers during this time.
Tara Etheridge works at health care facility in Columbus, Ga. The coronavirus has taken a toll on her place of work. They had to furlough a portion of their workers, and Etheridge was one of the employees furloughed.
“I went from working 40 hours a week to not working at all. I’ve been working nearly four years full time.” Etheridge said.
She has not let the outbreak keep her from safely socializing with the few people she usually sees on an everyday basis at work. Although her social life has not taking a hit, she has had trouble getting used to the new stay-at-home guidelines set in place.
“I still hang out with the few friends I work with. But it is weird to be limited to what I can and can’t do.” She said.
She has been taking the proper precautions when leaving home.
“Anytime I go out, I wear a mask. If I go to the grocery store, when I get back home, I take everything off and wash it.” Etheridge said.
Her primary concern is the health of the citizens leaving their homes too early.
“Slowly we are seeing restaurants reopening and offering curbside, with more of that happening, the more people are going out and possibly exposing others to the virus.” Etheridge said.
On the other side of the spectrum is Columbus State University student, Airianna Jones. Jones is a full-time student and works full time at a car dealership. When asked how the virus has affected her everyday life, she mentions the shift to online classes.
“It is difficult to shift to online from a class that was originally on campus. I am having trouble keeping up with the online classes,” she said.
Her job has not been affected from the outbreak. The only difference is the way the business is being conducted.
“In the service department, we’re only allowed to take cash payments because we can’t keep customers six feet away if they are using the card reader. And we have to sanitize all the cars when we bring them in for service,” she said.
When asked if she has taken any precautions, she says she hasn’t due to her circumstances.
“I haven’t taken any precautions against the virus. With working where I work, it’s not a question on whether if I get it, it is more so when and how will it affect me” she said. “You can’t buy masks anywhere. So, I just don’t go anywhere besides work and the grocery store.”
Shamori Lewis is a full-time employee at a security company that serves the east coast of the country. He travels to multiple states within a week and exposes himself to high-traffic areas.
“It’s very nerve-racking because you never know who has it and if you are exposed. I have to pay attention to how I feel every day, and make sure if I feel anything that I am not spreading it,” Lewis said.
He is currently in Kentucky which has had its cases increase exponentially over the last few days.
“It’s definitely a hot zone here in Kentucky,” he said.
He said that he feels he is secure within his job because it is considered essential but the businesses that he visits aren’t always essential.
“It hasn’t affected my job; however, we work with a lot of other business and they are closed. So, we have not been getting the usual variety of work as we use to,” he said.
When asked how it has affected his social life, he attributes the technology as the reason he has not noticed a difference.
“Since we are living in the age of technology, it has not drastically changed how I usually socialize,” Lewis said.
Since his job has slowed down due to the closing of some of the businesses he works with, he has spent the extra time learning relevant skills for when the stores begin to reopen.
Terrance Fortson works at a local auto parts store part time and he has seen the effects of shutdown up close.
“It’s been crazy. I need my job to pay part of the bills at my house. So, when my boss tells me that the coronavirus is forcing us to cut back on staff and they want to get rid of all part time workers, it can be pretty stressful,” Fortson said.
He also suffers from a weak immune system due to medication he is currently taking, which forces him to be even more careful.
“I have a low immune system so I am already risking my health to come to work, so if I get laid off, it may keep me healthy, but in this society, you need money to survive, too,” he said.
Fortson says he is doing everything he possibly can to try and stay safe while working.
“I wash my hands constantly. I always have hand sanitizer with me. I recently acquired a mask. I didn’t have a mask when it first became a pandemic,” he said.
He says he has lost the option to have a social life due to the pandemic.
“I do miss my friends. With my friend group, we are small enough that we might be able to hang out but rather be safe than sorry. One of them could be carrying it and not know, or I could so you might as well try to keep everyone you love safe by cutting back on social get-togethers,” he said.
Fortson says that he hopes that everyone is taking this seriously.
“We as a country need to be taking this serious. Just because a small fraction of the population has contracted it doesn’t mean we should take it lightly.” He said. “People have said I look ridiculous wearing a mask and washing my hands all the time, but if they were to contract, they may feel like they should’ve been doing the same thing.”